iOS 14 and Its Impact on Display Advertising

So it’s official: Facebook announced that you can’t do serious targeting on ads for iOS 14. Here is the key part of their words:

Ultimately, despite our best efforts, Apple’s updates may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14.

Wow! That is quite an admission from Apple! Quite explicitly saying that advertising on the new iPhone operating system may be “so ineffective” it’s not even worth it to use their ad system for that operating system.

And this isn’t a blip but the future; Google is quietly preparing for a similar change in their systems.

So what does this mean for the future? A few things.

First, the IDFA change is making all app ads–now on iOS and soon all mobile platforms, surely–effectively untargetable and thus mostly a waste. This includes remarketing ads since there won’t be any tracking information passed. For profit-based mobile app campaigns, they’re about to see their conversion acquisition strategy plummet.

Secondly, for political campaigns, this won’t be as destructive as it will be for commercial campaigns. When you want to blanket an entire jurisdiction with your ads, the specific user targeting is a lot less important. So expect to see more blanketing campaigns, as it quickly turns into the only type.

Third, in my experience, almost all app ads are garbage. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten a sale from a prospect from an app ad, over millions of dollars of ad spend managed. (Note that wording excludes remarketing.) I’ve gotten thousands of clicks from flashlight apps, where the user is literally in the dark holding the phone and not looking at it but looking at where the flashlight is pointing–pure spam.

So while The Interwebs are complaining that this change will make targeting much harder; I think it will just eliminate a lot of garbage ads.

From my eyes, one of the two biggest downsides with the change is remarketing. Remarketing ads are the one type of ad that has the potential to be profitable on apps. But, alas, that seems to be no longer.

The other biggest downside is that app ad revenue will plummet. So free apps that are dependent on ad revenue will likely have to close down or turn to subscription business models.

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